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XM to Launch Satellite Radio Handheld? 165

Posted by michael
from the jogging-to-the-beat-of-a-different-drummer dept.
g00set writes "Reuters is reporting 'XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc next week is expected to unveil a "wearable" device, marking the satellite radio industry leader's latest effort to woo audiences to the nascent format, analysts said.' In adddition, 'A radio industry executive said the device was believed to be a satellite-radio receiver with headphones that also had a hard drive enabling users to download XM content.'" There have been other rumors of this as well.
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XM to Launch Satellite Radio Handheld?

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  • by Power Everywhere (778645) on Friday October 22, 2004 @12:54PM (#10599399) Homepage
    I'm calling it here and now.
    • except I don't believe the iPod has a way to play through audio from another source. So if there was any iPod/XM hybrid, it would simply be using the iPod as a battery... which would suck, since the iPod battery isn't fantastic to start with.
      • by The Spoonman (634311) on Friday October 22, 2004 @02:27PM (#10600903) Homepage
        except I don't believe the iPod has a way to play through audio from another source.

        Although I don't have one, I have been investigating getting one, and I think that is incorrect. There is at least one accessory available for the iPod that suggests otherwise: The iTalk [apple.com] turns your iPod into a voice recorder. I think the unit simply stores your voice notes as MP3s on the iPod, but perhaps with a few tweaks it could playback real-time audio instead of just recording.

    • by JawFunk (722169)
      Two major devices linked is a lot more than peple want to carry around. More likely we'll see Apple partnering with XM to design an iPod with integrated XM. The feasibility of such a device can be judged once we see the specs of the wearable XM.

  • Based on what XM Radio tends to require I expect this to include a big dorky with an integral antenna.
    • And dont forget if you pass under bridges, go indoors, or a plane flys by right thru the feed. You lose signal... Sounds good to me.
      • XM radio works fine indoors. Mine sits on my night stand and maintains great signal strength.
        • XM doesnt work in large hulking structures made of concrete or thick metal. Passing under bridges loses the signal, driving inside a concrete parking garage also, and if you live in a brownstone or large scale apartment complex, its useless unless the antenna is outside on the roof at least. If yr home is a wooden/vinyl siding or balloon frame or such, yr fine. XM has tons of great options and the features or great, but i dont see it making a huge impact in the personal audio department, more of a car au
          • by erick99 (743982)
            They give you a very long antenna cable with the home kit that would allow most folks to set the antenna on a window ledge and still have the radio on a table or night stand.
          • by aelbric (145391) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:22PM (#10599717)
            This is not entirely incorrect.

            I have logged 40000 miles in my car with XM and have noticed the following:

            Bridges: no problem
            Parking deks: no problem
            Tunnels: problem, but how long do you spend in tunnels

            As far as indoors:
            Home, Brick(portable device): no problem
            Office: Can be iffy if mobile and dead spots can be encountered. But where it works I would not want to be without it.

            The service is fantastic I would recommend it to anyone. Small price to pay to get real music choice and almost no commercial interruption.
          • actually, that is not true: both xm radio and sirius use additional terrestrial repeaters to solve the problem of signal loss inside buildings: xm has several hundred repeater nationwide while sirius has significantly less; this is primarily due to the fact that sirius uses an 3 sat elliptical constillation that allows receivers much more coverage due to the higher inclination of the sat in respect to the listner compared to xm's two geostationary sats. either way, the terrestrial repeaters solve the prob
      • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:05PM (#10599530) Homepage Journal
        Have you actually tried satellite radio?

        I haven't but I don't think that XM necessarily has the same problems that AM has because they are on different bands, and the property of RF vary depending on its wavelength. For many urban areas, XM also has terrestrial repeater antennas to minimize the risk of drop-outs.

        Besides, for intermitten't problems, the signal is pre-buffered a bit with plenty of error correction to boot.

        I'd be vaguely interested in it if I can dock this little thing to my car, dock it to my HT sound system, or to my computer sound system, and use external antennas that connect through the dock.

        Satellite radio subscriptions are charged per-reciever, and for one person, it isn't worth owning multiple recievers.
        • I have a Roady with a home kit and I does have buffering. If you tune to a channel you haven't listened to for a while you will get a message "...loading" before it begins. I listen to ESPN on it and I have also had the very same ESPN up on the computer and the audio coming out of the XM is 15 to 20 seconds delayed.
    • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:08PM (#10599557)
      Just stick antenna in your pants and you'll be a hit with the ladies.
  • by slowhand (191637) on Friday October 22, 2004 @12:54PM (#10599403)
    perhaps I should rtfm.
  • Cool Device (Score:3, Interesting)

    by genkael (102983) on Friday October 22, 2004 @12:55PM (#10599407)
    This is a really cool sounding device. But XM needs to do some more marketing to fight Sirius. XM is sweet and I'm looking forward to getting it. A handheld would make it that much better.
    • Re:Cool Device (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why must they do that? From a business prespective I uderstand why they might want to do it but why would you want that. I would much rather both networks servive. After all Sirius is the newer and smaller player at the moment. As a consumer nothing would please me more then for it to become XMs equal. It means there will be competition and therefore, lower prices most likely come the day I decide to go Sat. Not that I ever will unless it pushes free FM radio out of usefull existance. Frankly I think
      • It looks like it's more of an HBO model then a cable TV-Model.
      • Re:Cool Device (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:13PM (#10599632) Homepage Journal
        Paragraphs should be your friend. You aren't making any sense.

        Personally, I'd rather a small subscription for a lot of stations, long playlists and no ads versus "free" radio's obnoxious ads, repetitious programming and only a few stations. As it is, there used to be some ads on some channels of satellite radio but they've both gone [i]away[/i] from it. I can't imagine the satellite radio companies making money charging subscriptions AND selling ads, because the no-ads is a major selling point.

        I try to avoid "free" radio because of their stupid short playlists too. Die terrestrial radio, die.
      • FM (and AM) radio is already like that - especially during rush hours. 10 minutes straight of commercials - that's exactly why I want XM.
    • From my area, it appears XM has a lot more marketing muscle. I've seen several XM ads and ads for XM products, but Sirius? I've only seen a couple store displays and maybe one TV ad.
    • With all due respect, XM is the clear leader right now in the satellite radio space. XM has over 2 million subscribers whereas Sirius has 700,000 subscribers. I'd also say that XM has a better brand: until the Howard Stern announcement, most people had no idea there was a second company doing satellite radio in the first place.
  • Sign me up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Friday October 22, 2004 @12:55PM (#10599415)
    I have XM radio right now and I would sign up for a portable receiver to augment the "fixed" one sitting on my nightstand. I am curious though, if I lean over the antenna I can lose the signal, where is this antenna going to be put on your body to maintain a good skyward orientation?
    • by cbelt3 (741637) <cbelt@yELIOTahoo.com minus poet> on Friday October 22, 2004 @12:57PM (#10599434) Journal
      XM Antennas look good on top of a propellor beanie or tinfoil hat. Sort of a shark fin thingy. Couple that with a GPS receiver, RFID implant, and your basic mind control implant that goes along with it, and you have an army of geeks at your beck and call.
      • I say combine it with a sweatband and make it solar powered!

        And perhaps a blender!

        Just add some sort feature X so you won't look like a jerk!

        *Wonders if anybody knows the refrence*
      • Newsflash!:

        Tinfoil hats are no longer safe. They are now being incorporated with XMSR and other tracking devices.

        In other news:

        in a strange twist of fate - Microsoft is announcing that the sudden migration of former Open Source advocates to Windows ME is proof positive that Windows is the best OS.

        Meanwhile, at a computer convention

        Steve Ballmer - it was inevitable, windows has and continues to be the OS of choice for the informed in the IT community... Suprisingly enough , most of the new visits t

    • Re:Sign me up (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      dont sign me up.

      They need to modify their gear to take some kind of ID card so I can have a reciever at home, in the car and portable and NOT pay close to $60.00 a month for the ability to have XM wherever I go.

      it is stupid to have to pay near full price for every reciever I listen to and the car solution in my Pioneer which is integrated in the head unit is far superior than the "move the module" crap. so I refuse to play that cradle and module ugly looking thing in my car and it also looks stupid at hom
      • I don't disagree... their per-unit charges are pretty insane still. There is a family plan now, so you only have to pay 7 bucks a month per additional unit instead of 10, but still I think it's too much money on the margin for all but the hardcore market. The usual response on the forums is "if they charged less than 7 bucks a month per unit above the first, there would be rampant account sharing". Hmm, I dunno about that, it's like saying that there should be rampant cable subscription sharing between a
    • if I lean over the antenna I can lose the signal
      That all depends on where you live. In major metro areas, xm has ground repeaters, which will even let you get a signal in tunnels and whatnot. I seriously considered going satellite when i heard O&A were finally going back on the air, but alas budgeting my graduate student's stipend doesn't justify subscription-based radio.
  • Is that it wasn't portable. Very interesting.
  • Swift!

    Plenty of songs to rip on-the-road!!!!

  • by SamMichaels (213605) on Friday October 22, 2004 @12:58PM (#10599446)
    I have to say that the quality of XM's audio has significantly decreased since I got the service in 2002. It resembles a poorly encoded 96k MP3 now. It could be that they have too many channels and they had to drop the bandwidth...but it sounds AWFUL. FM stations in the area have more highs, not to mention actual audio processing (the stuff that gives it that "radio sound").

    If bandwidth is becoming a problem with all these channels, change the technology. Put an MP3Pro-like encoder on it...newer units sound crystal clear again and older units sound the same.

    I'd sure like to hear the technical explanation from XM as to why the audio has sucked over the last few months.
    • If bandwidth is becoming a problem with all these channels, change the technology. Put an MP3Pro-like encoder on it...newer units sound crystal clear again and older units sound the same

      Funny you mention that. The encoder technology on XM actually uses an mp3pro-like approach. You can tell when the sound gets "muffled" for about half a second while driving under a small bridge. And yes, I read it is 96kbps per channel, except on those "weather and sport event" channels (which is why you can hear a "nasal"
      • by SirDaShadow (603846) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:13PM (#10599625)
        Actually, after a few minutes of googling, I stand corrected. XM uses AAC with SBR at 64kbps. The "SBR" part is what makes it "mp3pro-like".
        • My god thats *TERRIBLE*, you're supposed to pay 1$ a month for music trickled to you at 8k/s?
          • My god thats *TERRIBLE*, you're supposed to pay 1$ a month for music trickled to you at 8k/s?

            No, we pay $9.99 a month to get our service. Less if we buy yearly or multi-yearly subscriptions.

            Despite what others have said, I think the music channels sound awesome. I wouldn't say they are significantly better than an FM radio station, but they do sound good. I think those that are hearing 'degraded sound quality' probably have played it so loud that they are actually loosing their hearing. =]
            • I wanted to leave the content out of the discussion...but since this is going in that direction...

              I listen to BPM #81, 90s on 9 #9, Highway 16 #16, and Top 20 #20. Top 20 is pop..it's the same. Highway 16 is decent...they're pretty quick on the new songs.

              90s was trashed. It's SOOO bad compared to when Kane/Girl/Priestly were on.

              BPM is a mess. Disorganized, late on new music.

              Even if we solve this lousy sound quality issue, I'm still debating on whether or not to just let my radio get deactivated from
    • I haven't heard a noticeable degredation. I've subscribed in late 2001. Talk stations are pretty bad, but music hasn't been.

      Reports are the new SkyFi2 sounds better than pretty much anything else. And there is a new Polk component XM receiver with optical and coaxial output. Time for an upgrade?
      • by SamMichaels (213605) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:19PM (#10599682)
        I haven't heard a noticeable degredation. I've subscribed in late 2001. Talk stations are pretty bad, but music hasn't been.

        It's easier to tell with an FM modulator. It used to have mad sibilance from the pre-emphasis...now since the highs are completely GONE (low pass at 10khz or something ridiculous?) and warbled, you don't hear that anymore.

        If my old Pioneer unit is no longer supported, don't you think XM would have said "we did technology improvements...you need to upgrade the firmware or buy a new unit manufacturered after XX"?
        • It varies by channel too. The problem is, what good does it do to have 100+ channels if half of them are unlistenable? For a long time anybody who bitched about XM sound quality was hounded off the message boards as a 'whiny audiophile' who was just imagining things, but I sure as hell am no audiophile. I listen to 196kbps VBR CD-rip MP3s and enjoy them a lot, though I admit even 128kbps MP3s are 'listenable' but not fabulous to my ears. Now, I have several friends with XM radio who have decent ears but
          • It's a rare person that can actually hear up to 20KHz...most people's hearing is seriously rolled off by 15KHz, and many before that.

            That's why so few people are bothered by flyback whine from TV sets - 15,734 KHz is above their hearing range. It wasn't for me when I was younger, and used to drive me crazy, but rock & roll & gunfore took care of my high frequency hearing to the point that I can't hear it anymore either.
            • by Fnkmaster (89084) * on Friday October 22, 2004 @03:00PM (#10601411)
              This is just not true. TV/CRT whine is almost painful to my ears if a room is otherwise silent. My roommate always does this - turns off the cable box, leaves on the TV in his room, and I have to go down the hall, into his room to shut the damned thing off because it's so distracting. Now admittedly, all of my friends are in their mid-twenties, and have never been loud concert going types (well, I've been to a few, but not a regular occurrence), so maybe we just don't have the damaged hearing of many older folks. But any audio product built specifically for a half-deaf 50 year old audience isn't going to do too well.


              I'm assuming you are talking from experience re: XM radio? For me, it's just a matter of listening to XM radio and listening to a normal MP3 or AAC encoded file. You can hear the "hard cutoff" in frequency response which you can visibly see in a spectral analyzer. Even if your hearing in the high frequency range isn't too great (and admittedly, nobody hears very _well_ at those high frequencies), the cutoff sounds hard and unnatural and should be quite noticeable. It's not a bitrate artifact, since low bitrate artifacts sound very distinct (and can be heard on many of the talk channels, especially the news/weather channels, ouch). Apparently, some of the XM issues are also from the "neural analyzers" they use as part of the encoding process, according to some of the people who should know in the XM radio forums. But almost everybody seems to admit now that the hard frequency cutoff is an issue.

        • "It's easier to tell with an FM modulator"

          How so?

          Wouldn't it be easier to tell if you have it directly plugged into a something instead of transcoding it for FM transmittal

          I hear no signal problems with my delphi home plugged directly into my stereo.
          • The FM modulator does a thing that all FM signals have...it's called pre-emphasis. It has a special EQ curve that REALLY boosts the highs....it's like taking your treble knob, turning it up the whole way, and then going twice more. The radio does de-emphasis to undo that before you hear it.

            When XM was sending crystal clear highs, it would often get that scratchy sound from overmodulating (sibilance)...since the sound quality has taken a nose dive and the highs are basically missing, it doesn't do that an
    • If it IS bandwidth constraints, just wait untill all these new people who wheren't subscribers before, but will be now because it's portable get tacked on. It looks like maybe they're trying to make a pretty new gadget, get more money, THEN invest in imporoving their bandwidth. When what a NICE buisiness would do is make the investment to begin with, attracting more subscribers, which would THEN pay off for their investment.
    • Its funny, I was thinking the same thing driving into work today.

      It seems like its gotten quite a bit worse just in the last few months. Weird compression artifacts, I was getting some clicking on one of the channels I was listening to on the drive. Weird stuff.

    • As a long time subscriber, I've noticed this too.

      They only have so much bandwidth, so in order to cram all the worthless weather channels, college sport channels, and the emergency channels, in the same alloted bandwidth, they had to sacrifice quality on several other channels.
    • the total bandwidth for the xm spectrum is 4.8 MB/s.

      given that, the average bitrate per channel is 48kb/s. of course, talk and news channels will be given less bandwidth and music channels given more. xm HAS been experimenting with different codecs/bitrates and has the capability to change them on the fly.

      perhaps the reduction in quality that you are hearing is simply a channel that has had its bitrate lowered so that another could be raised.
  • Nice (Score:1, Insightful)

    by igzat (817053)
    This has some serious potential. But I have an ipod now, if there was only some way to intergrate this into the ipods body, it would make an awesome combo. 40 Gigs of MP3's and satelite radio, I would pay $400 for that!
  • I would love to have such a device.

    I already have a Roady with home kit. Reception in the car is fine, but inside the house, it's very sensitive to antenna placement.

    I wonder how this device addresses reception isues.
  • First baseball, now this!! I hear my bank account swelling - lets hear it for XMSR! Now we just need the "Sirius to XM converter", the "BicycleFI", and "BottledWaterFI".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:00PM (#10599469)
    http://www.xm411.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=3164

    This does not look dorky, there really doesn't appear to be room for a harddrive (ignorant industry exec!), the antenna is integrated in the headphones, and it's actually just an accessory for the Roady2 XM receiver.
  • Portable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Auckerman (223266) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:01PM (#10599474)
    I'm one of those people who think if the music isn't portable, then it's useless. The only exception to this is my old war time jazz vinyl collection and that's cause I'm lazy and haven't encoded it yet. Anyhow, it's one of the fatal flaws in satellite radio along with the fact that the user still get's little input into what's being played.

    Personally, I think there's a LOT of money to be made with satellite based on demand music. The playlist/selection revolves during the day, you queue it up or put it on random.
  • ..about the satellite radio biz. Maybe all those tin foil hats can actually serve a purpose now.

    • Not as far as the current consumer XM technology goes. The receivers they sell are just that - receivers, and do not have transmit capabilities. It would not be feasible to install a built in tracking device because it cuts out from your bottom line, and XMSR are value maximizers - like any subscriber-based business (Comcast).

      Tin foil hats could be useful once the satellites are employed for another reason, but what personal identifiers make you traceable? None so far. Sleep tite.

  • *yawn* (Score:5, Informative)

    by Misch (158807) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:04PM (#10599510) Homepage
    Sirius already has a handheld unit [bestbuy.com], the XACT receiver.

    How small?
    This small [siriusbackstage.com].
    • YEAH! that things is "HELLA" sweet!
    • For reference, this [dyndns.org] is my Palm Zire 71 hard case in my hand. (I am not the hand model for the picture of the XACT, so YMMV.)
    • It costs too much. If it was 39.95 or less they would get a lot more subscribers.
    • That thing looks bigger than my Magellan GPS [magellangps.com] and at least from the description of the Sirius device, it doesn't have the reported hard drive that the XM unit will have.

      Nothing to yawn at to me...

    • Where's the power supply? Where's the antenna?

      It's a plug-and-play shuttle, not a stand-alone unit. It's just like my Audiovox SIR-PNP2, only smaller.
  • Will a single XM subscription allow you to listen on n many XM devices?

    If my 1 XM subscription would allow me to listen on an XMPCR, car, computer, handheld, whatever, I'd be interested in it; otherwise, no.
    • From what I understand both XM & Sirius license individual radios. This means a subscription lets you listen to their service on one radio. I think both companies offer discounts for additional recivers, but you're still paying for each one you listen to. This is why some of the manufacturers of radios make them portable & include docking stations for cars, stereos, etc. You buy one radio & take it wherever you want - in the car, the office, home, etc.
      • Sub$cription co$t$ (Score:3, Informative)

        by Secrity (742221)
        XM and Sirius both charge per receiver:

        XM
        first receiver: $10 / month
        each additional receiver: $7 (2nd - 5th receiver)

        Sirius
        first receiver: $13 / month
        each additional receiver: $7 (2nd - 4th receiver)

        Both have discounted multiyear subscriptions.

        Sirius has a product lifetime subscription available for about $500.

        Hmmm, TiVo's product lifetime subscription is only $300.
  • Cool! (Score:5, Funny)

    by eli173 (125690) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:08PM (#10599567)
    A hand-held satellite launcher! Think of what Carmack could do with that!

    Huh?

    Oh, a hand-held radio satellite's still cool; miniaturization has come a long way.

    What?

    Oh.

    Nevermind.
  • Sirius... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:12PM (#10599611)
    I hope Sirius comes out with a similar product by the end of the year. I plan to subscribe to Sirius when Howard Stern starts there next year.
    • I don't mean to start a flame war about Howard Stern here (OK maybe I do, a little), but at what point does a person decide he has enough money?

      Sure he will work better in the satellite medium, and I'm sure he still love his work, but I bet he loves that $100 MILLION PER YEAR he will be making even more.

      Stern's a sellout, and I wouldn't mind seeing Sirius go broke trying to pay him.
      • Re:Sirius... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jokach (462761)
        I don't necessarily agree that he is a sellout. He did what was required to stay on the air and keep his $100 million a year paycheck.

        The way that censorship is cutting away at his radio empire, what other choice does he have? Satellite radio will become the cable TV of radio, I think everyone knows that, and Stern made the move at the right time.
        • I don't begrudge him for making a move that would preserve his show. But it takes a lot of balls and something far less noble, however, to look someone in the eye and tell them that your 4-hour workday is worth $100 million a year.

          And what about the rest of the crew? Gettin way offtopic here, but is it just Stern making the cash, or is that $.5 Billion contract for the rights to the entire show, including current personnel?
    • Re:Sirius... (Score:4, Informative)

      by skydude_20 (307538) on Friday October 22, 2004 @01:25PM (#10599754) Journal
      They already do [bestbuy.com]
  • I have the Audiovox portable tuner for Sirius with the boombox accessory. This thing drains enough juice that it may as well be a portable pizza oven. Eight D cell batteries last around six hours! The tuner itself gets very hot. Unless you plan on wearing a car battery around your neck, they will need to change some things.

    Perhaps this push for wearable units will force the manufacturers to update the technology. I don't understand why the tuner cannot be the size of a Palm Pilot and run cool. I have to im

    • I've got an Audiovox PNP2, and the new JVC Gen 2.5 PNP.

      The audiovox is big and runs -really- hot.
      The JVC uses the new Gen 2.5 chipset and gives off minimal warmth and
      is about one third the size, due to the new, efficient chipset.

      They've gotten the technology refined quite a bit from the first release of the radios.
      The first ones ran hot because there's an exceptional bit of processing needed to find, refine, and process the signal.

      Pretty amazing that they got it to work so well actually.
    • That's probably why Audiovox just released their third generation receiver [sirius.com]. Too bad it's a different form factor from their earlier tuners; otherwise, getting it wouldn't mean getting new docking stations and such.
  • Free today, subscription tommorow... soon with extra commercials like cable TV.

    I assume someone will get congres to "mysteriously reassigned" the soon to be empty AM and FM bandwidth?

    Long live NPR!
  • I have one of those Audiovox ones as well but I got all crafty and attached a laptop battery to it and stuffed all that into a backpack. I can listen anywhere I want to and it lasts for about 3+ hours on the battery. Great for camping!
  • Yea, well, Sirius paid this guy [yahoo.com] $500M for 5 years to do discussions on sex, boobs and boners. I think I know where my loyalty lies...
  • One of the big draws I see for Sirius & XM are the commercial free stations.

    How long will that last I ask.

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